Saturday, May 4, 2013

Native Loveliness

I had last Friday off.  Working 56 hours in 4 days gets you that.  It was kind of a nice day.  Despite the fact that I was physically exhausted from the four days prior, I had to get out of the house and enjoy some sun.

While I was messing around in my backyard doing this and that, I had an epiphany.  I had been wanting to create a native plant garden somewhere in my backyard ever since we moved in.  I love native plants and have been collecting them and keeping them in pots for the last several years, which is not really good for them.  I had a place for this garden mapped out for a while, but was feeling a bit underwhelmed by the location and overwhelmed by the work it would take to prep it.  Then I found the perfect spot.  It got a tiny bit of sun but was mostly shady (perfect for native woodland plants), was not being used for anything else, was on a side of the house that needed some love, and was relatively bare of stuff to make prepping the bed easier.  I jumped at Shawn for his approval as soon as he came home from work, and 3 hours later, we had a native plant garden that we were super proud of.


After!!! From left: red and evergreen huckleberry, wood sorrel, and deer fern, sandwiched by bunches of vanilla leaf. The mulch is stuff we found on Craigslist for free.  It's arborist's mulch, made mostly of Douglas fir.  It smells really nice.

Vanilla leaf!  It smells so good. We had a huge patch of it that we split into 4 sections.

Red huckleberry, a little sunburnt, but it should get better in its new shady spot.
The only problem we had was the wrist-thick holly roots that we had to battle and dig up while prepping the bed.  (That's a whole other project: English Holly murder.)  But it really was an easy project and super fun and super rewarding to finally get those poor plants in the ground.  It is directly underneath the bird house Shawn built so this little corner of our property is prepped to be a little native natural haven.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Garden Learning 2013

Every year, I take on several garden experiments.  Of course, I do the usual stuff since I like to have lots to eat, but the scientist inside me just can't help experimenting and trying new things out.  This way I can really maximize my yields by finding out what grows the best in the micro climate of my backyard.  I couple my experiments with some help from ye olde Google and whisk the summer away, playing in the dirt and expanding my mind.

Lifelong learning, baby.  Never gonna stop.

Last year, the experiments resulted on some successes and some failures.  Pumpuchini (aka saving seeds from a sugar pumpkin)- fail, Beets - mediocre, Peas in fall - mediocre, bok choy - awesome, etc.

(And just to clarify, my experiments include just trying out a new variety of plant, saving seeds from something I haven't saved seeds from before, or just trying a new way of growing something.)

This year I am trying a few new varieties of vegetables:
* Sweet pepper
* Eggplant
* Dry beans
* Fava beans

The pepper and eggplant seeds (as well as all my seeds for that matter) I got from a local seed company up in Bellingham and they are accustomed to growing in our cooler, shorter summers.  They produce smaller fruit, but I'm really excited to see if they work.  (So far, they have been slow to germinate and the ones that have, haven't done much.)

I decided on dry beans because I want to extend my eating of what I grow to past the summer and early fall.  I hardly buy vegetables during the summer which is great, but I want to really buckle down on preserving and canning so that I can enjoy my harvests all year round.  Dry beans will help me do that.  And who doesn't like a nice steamy pot of chili in the winter?  Imagine how much more delicious it would be if it was made with beans and tomatoes from the garden?  Mmmm, can't wait.

I got the fava beans because it is a plant you plant in the fall and harvest in the spring and early summer.  This is a great way to utilize my otherwise fallow planting space while also getting some nutrients back into the soil.  (Beans do that, you know.)  I need to do more growing in the fall and winter.

*I was going to try my hand at asparagus since asparagus is super delicious, but the root bundles (or crowns) that you have to buy and plant are expensive and you really need a ton of space to get a handful.  NOT worth my time or limited space.  Maybe later.

But the experiment I'm most looking forward to is my garlic bulbils.  Last year, I accidentally left my garlic in the ground too long which resulted in the scapes producing large amounts of these little purple balls of garlic at the top of the plant.  I didn't know what they were at the time, but it turns out they are garlic bulbils.  They can be planted in the spring to start new garlic plants. However, it turns out they won't produce garlic the first year.  I'll have to harvest them along with the other garlic, then let them dry until the fall and replant them.  I've read that a majority of them will then produce cloves the second year, with a handful still staying in bulb form.  These are pretty much guaranteed to produce big cloves the third year.  Pretty cool, huh?  I'm excited.  I'm still using my garlic harvest from last year, so if I can keep it up, I'll never have to buy garlic ever again!  I may even start to have extra so that I can share my bounty with family.  Garlic is great because it takes little fertilizing and little space for lots of harvest.

Don't mind the peas mixed in.  Can you spot the hazelnut? (I have no idea where it came from.)
The tall ones are garlic cloves planted in the fall, the smaller ones are the bulbils planted in the spring.
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